From: Mary-Beth McLaughlin, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio
Published October 13, 2005 12:00 AM

Devices To Save Energy are Hot Sellers

The temperatures may still be mild, but sales of cold-air fighters like insulation are heating up as area residents prepare to contend with soaring energy costs.

A check with local retailers found sales are unusually brisk for insulation, weather-stripping and plastic sheeting for windows, caulking materials, and even programmable thermostats.

"People are very aware of what the fuel prices are going to be, so they're preparing," said Mike Peitz, assistant manager of The Andersons at Talmadge Road and Monroe Street.

"They're hoping they can avoid some of those costs by making their homes a little more weather tight."

For many shoppers, that means buying insulation for the attic, with many opting for R-25 Miraflex fiberglass insulation from Toledo's Owens Corning, said Mr. Peitz.

David Grant, an assistant manager at the Home Depot on Alexis Road, said insulation is a seasonal item, costing $9 to $30 a roll, but area retailers have gotten an early jump on offering it and other products because of the expected increases in natural gas and electricity rates.

The twin hurricanes that slammed the Gulf Coast recently, severely lowering fuel production, have the Energy Information Administration estimating the typical home in the Midwest that uses natural gas will have a 70 percent increase in heating bills this winter from last, possibly to $1,600 for the winter.

Bills for those using heating oil are estimated to jump 31 percent. For those with electric heat, costs also are expected to be high.

"People are insulating their walls and attics, filling their cracks and spaces, and buying caulking," Mr. Grant said. "It's all relevant to saving some energy because of the perceived crisis in pricing."

The effectiveness of insulation is based on its R-value, with most experts recommending R-25 in attics that have no insulation, he explained. Codes call for new construction to have R-38 insulation, he added.

Area retailers say shoppers are eager to find ways to cut energy use and, ultimately, the cost of heating their homes.

Prices for energy-saving products vary widely.

For example, a door-bottom weatherstrip costs $4, insulating foam about $5, compact fluorescent light bulbs $6, window insulator kits $15, and programmable thermostats $45 to $130.

Doug Janney, of Janney's Ace Hardware on Secor Road, said customers are scooping up clear window insulators, such as those made by 3M and Ace.

Karen Cobb, a spokesman for Lowe's in Wilkesboro, N.C., said products with an Energy Star label meet energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The least expensive way for consumers to save energy is to exchange incandescent lightbulbs for more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.

The fluorescents cost more initially but save money over the life of the bulb, experts said.

A programmable thermostat can save up to $100 a year, said Ms. Cobb from Lowe's. It allows heating and cooling systems to run more efficiently, she said.

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Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

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